Suicide risk in carers

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Caring is a tough gig and some days all you want to do is hide under the doona until it all goes away. But for some carers the experience can be so overwhelming that they feel life is no longer worth living. This is the topic of new research by Dr Siobhan O'Dwyer and her team at Griffith University.

In a study of middle-aged Australian women they found that just over 7% of women who provided unpaid care to a family member with an illness or disability had felt that life wasn't worth living. And this was significantly more than the number of non-carers who felt this way. Feeling that life isn't worth living is often considered a precursor to suicidal thoughts and the research builds on earlier work that found 1 in 4 people caring for a family member with dementia had contemplated suicide.  

Dr O'Dwyer says that while more research is needed, there are several lessons that can already be drawn from the research. She says health professionals and support services should be screening for depression in carers and referring carers who need additional support. She also says that carers shouldn't be afraid to ask for help. "Carers are amazingly resilient people, who kindly and compassionately give their time for others. But it's okay to admit that you are struggling and to explore other options if the situation is no longer working for you".

The study was published this month in the journal Maturitas. Carers who are contemplating suicide, or feel that life isn't worth living, should contact Lifeline on 13 11 14. For general support related to caregiving, the Carers Advisory Service is available on 1800 242 636

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